Mad Men 07:12

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Wow. What a depressing episode. I know I’ve said this before but this episode really went for the jugular as we dealt with ghosts, false utopias, and “the women’s movement”.

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It was surreal that they would title an episode “Lost Horizon” when it was referenced to not only the season premiere (remember when Don watched it late at night at Megan’s house in Los Angeles), but the plot of the story and the film adaptation have a weird influence over the episode. In the story, a pilot lands in the mythical land of Shangri-La but while it appears to be a utopia, the society is literally frozen in time. Which is a perfect description of McCann-Erickson. What was startling was that their offices were so sterile, the opening shots looked like rats in a maze. Not only that but Don’s office looked like his old office at Sterling Cooper back in 1960. It was like the show reset itself. Or to use Joan’s big question, “So I went through all of that for nothing?”

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If there was anything that was depressing about the new status quo for our friends it was the shockingly bad way that Joan was treated. As we saw sexism is alive and well at McCann, but at the same time, they’ve become such a bureaucracy that they don’t take the feminist movement seriously (note the scene where the two female copywriters are begging Joan for crumbs and inviting her to a “consciousness-lowering session”). While Joan had been through a host of degrading situations during her tenure at SC (and SCDP) (and SC&P), she usually had some sense of agency that allowed her to come out on top and be celebrated by her male counterparts. Alas, that’s not the case at McCann, where her underling Dennis treats her horribly, Ferg makes a bold-faced play to sleep with her, and when she tries to go to Jim Hobart, he basically tells her to fuck off. Worst of all, Roger did not stand up for her at all. Again! So only getting half of her stake, she walks out to Richard, who has come around in my eyes as being the only person who has Joan’s best interests at heart.

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Meanwhile, in the ghost offices of SC&P, Roger (who’s sitting in his old office being maudlin) and Peggy (who doesn’t have an office yet so is working out of SC&P), have a surprising – and surprisingly fun – heart to heart. Literally walking past the ruins of SC&P the two slam Cinzano and tell the truth to each other. She helps him get over moping and rightlyfully chides him on not protecting the company, while he gives her Bert’s old print and tells her to no cow tow to everyone at McCann. Which of course led to this…

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…and then, the following morning, THIS!…

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She’s going to be just fine.

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Like I said ghosts hung over this story and Don was confronted by one in the form of Bert Cooper. Quoting Kerouac (“Wither goest now America in thy shiny car at night?”) he asks Don what he’s doing. It’s obvious: He’s running away. But this time, I have to agree with him. After Jim Hobart described him as his Moby Dick and then giving him Miller, Don had to sit through that humiliating meeting where he could feel himself dying on the vine. And all the weird lies of Jim Hobart (giving Don the Miller account but filled with a room of corporate drones, making Don feel special and yet selling the same line to everyone else) had pushed him over the edge and into hobo mode. The funny thing is that when he went to Racine to track down Diana. Unfortunately for him, Diana happens to be permanently in hobo mode, as he learned when Don met her ex-husband. But rather than head back he headed north towards St. Paul with a hitchhiker. Given that the next episode is called “The Milk and Honey Route” which was hobo and Depression-era slang for the railroad route to California, I don’t think we’re done with Don’s westward expansion yet.

Random Notes

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– BERT!!! I was not expecting the ghost of dear Bertram Cooper to return to our screens, but if it means we get more of the fabulous Robert Morse, I’ll take it. But really, no musical number for him?  Bert’s ghost was also present for Roger’s gift to Peggy of Bert’s print of Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife.” He even haunted the music choice for the end of the episode, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” You will recall he not only said the word astronaut first in the show, but his death coincided with the landing on the moon.

– I loved the ominous moment of Peggy hearing the organ music then walking past both the logos of SCDP and SC&P in the shell of the former office. It was perfect.

– There was one costuming choice in this episode that made me fall out of my chair, but I’m going to let Tom and Lorenzo tackle that one in their “Mad Style” post. (You are reading their posts, right? Because it’s among the best commentary on the show. Period.)

– While it was cute to see Don and Betty together, and him encouraging her with her studies, I did have to laugh when I realized she was reading Freud’s paper on Dora. Something tells me this studying is going to be disastrous for Betty (especially if the clips from the next episode are leading me where I think they are). But I do like the fact that they at least are at peace with each other (he even called her “Birdie,” which he hasn’t done in a long time).

– I was shocked that all of the sudden Joan was spewing second wave feminist rhetoric at Jim. It’s not that Joan would ever call herself a feminist in full but she obviously had her ear to the ground about people like Betty Friedan and her Women’s Strike for Equality and other events like the Ladies Home Journal sit-in. The sad thing, is that Joan would have lost her lawsuit at that time.

– I can’t decide which I liked more: Peggy skating around the wreckage of SC&P to “Hi Lili-Hi Lo” or her badass strut through the McCann offices (but it really needed some kind of kicky punk rock theme to go with it, no?).

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– Meredith has been steadily growing on me this season. Of course she’s dressed almost too cheerily, but she has her shit down cold; from reminding Don “no naps” to putting together a hell of a mood board for decorating ideas. Credit goes to Stephanie Drake for turning Meredith into a fascinating character.

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– Finally, I fell out of my chair at the end of the episode. Not because of Don driving (and recreating this season’s key art), not because of the hitchhiker, but because the hitchhiker was none other than former Twin Cities singer/songwriter Ari Herstand in the role.

Photo Credits: AMC Television / Lionsgate Television

Originally Published on 4 May 2015 as part of “The Idiot Box“, my television column for l’étoile

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